Archaeology students from Darlington College of Technology have been compiling a permanent record of families in Weardale.

Students been helping volunteers map plots in church graveyards before headstones fall into disrepair or are destroyed by the weather.

Graves in Weardale are suffering the ravages of time with headstones crumbling and inscriptions being worn off by the rain and wind.

College archaeology tutor Margaret Manchester has been working with the students and volunteers to capture the details for future generations thanks to an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty grant.

Mrs Manchester is also the treasurer and secretary of the Weardale Field Study Society and has been trying to record as much detail as possible at churches in Eastgate, Rookhope and Stanhope.

"A lot of the headstones have fallen over while others are considered unsafe and are taken away," she said. "Many of the inscriptions are difficult to read so we are trying to get a record of how the churchyards are at the moment before they become a thing of the past."

All Saints Church, in Eastgate, dates back to 1885 while St Thomas' Parish Church, in Stanhope, was founded in Norman times.

The volunteers are mapping where each grave is in the churchyard, recording inscriptions and taking photos of the sites. All the information will be go on to the Internet so people from all over the world will be able to access it via www.gen website

"This is something I have wanted to do for many years," said Mrs Manchester. "We have been very thorough and the work should be on line by December."

Lorraine Watkinson, of Darlington, who has just completed a Level 3 TROCN in archaeology, said: "This has been the opportunity for us to put into practice what we have learned."